A battling and spirited Northern Ireland men’s Under-19 team lost 3-0 to a strong Portugal U19 team in a UEFA prep tournament in Larne tonight.
Two first-half strikes and a goal midway through the second session secured the win for the visitors who got their hands on the trophy as table toppers.
UEFA Preparatory U19 Friendly Tournament
Northern Ireland U19s 0 Portugal U19s 3
Portugal: Ivan Lima 24’, Fábio Rúben Soares Jaló 35’, Leonardo Barroso 63’
Inver Park, Larne
21 November 2023
Boss Gareth McAuley made seven changes to the side which lost 2-0 to Czechia on Saturday evening.
Pierce Charles, Phoenix Scholtz, Ryan Donnelly, Sam Glenfield, Brendan Hamilton, George Goodman and Reece Evans were named in the starting eleven.
Mason Munn, Sean Brown, Josh Briggs, Tom Atcheson, Jack Doherty, Devlan Moses and Corey Smith were all on the bench this time around.
How it happened
Portugal were first out of the blocks when Fábio Rúben Soares Jaló raced down the right to force a fine save from Pierce Charles who palmed his shot onto the bar and away from danger.
Six minutes later João Gonçalves tried his luck with a left-footed free-kick from a narrow angle, but the ball was safely collected by Charles.
It was then João Rego’s turn when his well-executed overhead kick from the edge of the box went narrowly off-target before Charles clutched the ball away from the on-rushing Soares Jaló a few moments later.
Midway through the first half the deadlock was broken in spectacular fashion when Ivan Lima evaded the attention of George Goodman and curled a beautiful shot into the top corner with the help of the woodwork.
The lively Soares Jaló then doubled the visitors’ advantage with a deft finish across goal after he got on the end of João Gonçalves’ cross.
Half-time: Northern Ireland U19s 0 Portugal U19s 2
Northern Ireland’s Kieran Morrison showed exquisite skill shortly before the hour mark as the Liverpool youngster turned on the ball and ghosted past Dário Essugo and Gonçalves only for his left-footed shot to fly narrowly wide of the target.
Just a few minutes later it was 3-0 when Gonçalves collected Manuel Mendonça’s short corner and spotted Leonardo Barroso on the edge of the box and the Sporting CP defender’s powerful left-footed drive flew into the net.
Morrison looked a real threat for McAuley’s men and he picked out Sam Glenfield with a beautiful pass but the Fleetwood frontman’s shot from the edge the area was blocked – as was sub Fra Turley’s follow-up strike.
Morrison went close to pulling one back from a set-piece but his 20-yard free-kick was off target.
Charles, younger brother of Northern Ireland senior international Shea, was then called upon twice in the space of a minute to deny Rego and Essugo respectively with a couple of fine saves.
The Sheffield Wednesday stopper was alert to the danger again five minutes from time to deny Rego with his legs and a matter of seconds later he got down low to save sub Rafael Luis’ low left-foot drive from the edge of the box.
Late on, great work down the right from Corey Smith was snuffed out before Morrison was denied from an acute angle.
Full-time: Northern Ireland U19s 0 Portugal U19s 3
Northern Ireland: Pierce Charles, Phoenix Scholtz (Sean Brown 45’), Joel Thompson, Gallagher Lennon (c), Ryan Donnelly (Fra Turley 66’), Sam Glenfield, Kieran Morrison, Brendan Hamilton, Blaine McClure (Lewis Trickett 83’), George Goodman, Reece Evans (Corey Smith 45’).
Subs (unused): Mason Munn, Tom Atcheson, Devlan Moses, Josh Briggs, Jack Doherty, Rio Oudnie-Morgan.
Portugal: Goncalo Ribeiro, João Muniz, João Conceição (Miguel Monteiro 82’), Manuel Mendonça (Ussumane Djaló 76’), Ivan Lima (Mauro Meireles Couto 76’), Leonardo Barroso, Diogo Monteiro, Fábio Rúben Soares Jaló (Rafael Nel 76’), João Gonçalves, Dário Essugo (Rafael Luis 82’), João Rego
Subs (unused): Francisco Silva, Duarte Oliveira, Mauro Meireles Couto, João Costa, Luis Gomes, Chissumba.